By Joseph Robertia
The personal-use fisheries at the mouth of the Kasilof River have for years generated frustration among the people who call the Kasilof and Cohoe areas home, rather than a once-a-year fishing and camping destination. They are the ones who, after the 54-day set gillnet and dip-net fisheries, are left to contend with the damaged dunes and ecological habitat, improperly discarded garbage, fish waste and human excrement, and other impacts of the crowds.
Members of a group calling itself the Cohoe-Kasilof Community Council are hoping to stand up for the place they live and recreate. The group received a grant of $150,900 in the state capital budget, now awaiting Gov. Sean Parnell’s veto decisions.
“The thrust of the community council organizing is response to a perceived problem we were experiencing in the community on both sides of the river,” said council President Debbie Brown.
Anyone within the 99610 zip code — which encompasses more than 1,200 families — who is 18 years or older and is an Alaska resident can be a general member of the council, and the board of directors is made up of elected members, Brown said. Currently, in addition to Brown, George Pierce serves as the vice president, Dianne Macrae is the records manager/secretary, Bill Carlson is the treasurer, and Jack Brown and Harry Miller are members at large.
The group’s stated goal is to develop and implement an action plan to ensure responsible community, social and economic development compatible with the best interests of local residents. It supports sustainable regional projects that will improve the quality of life for residents and aims to achieve these measures by working with local, state and federal governmental entities.
Since forming in October 2010, the group has been meeting on a nearly monthly basis, including Monday night at Tustumena Elementary School, where the discussion centered around the upcoming personal-use fishing season and possible funding to provide educational community outreach, habitat protection, coordination of human waste disposal and public safety support.
The council’s $150,900 Kasilof River Safety and Habitat Protection grant proposal has been approved by the Legislature and included in the capital budget, which is being reviewed by the governor.
“We put together a proposal, a request for legislative funding, that would be a good fit for other projects already ongoing in the community,” Debbie Brown said. “If we make it through the governor’s veto we’ll go forward to see what the plan is for this year, and if we can’t implement it at this stage, we’ll go forward with it for next year.” Continue reading